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Oregon's Lavasier Tuinei goes from supporting role to headliner

ROSE BOWL NOTES

Receiver had kept a low profile on a team with more prominent players, but he is selected offensive player of the Rose Bowl game after producing career highs of eight receptions and 158 yards, to go with two touchdowns.

January 02, 2012|By Mike Hiserman and Chris Foster
  • Ducks receiver Lavasier Tuinei escapes a Stanford defender for a big gain in the fourth quarter Monday at the Rose Bowl.
Ducks receiver Lavasier Tuinei escapes a Stanford defender for a big gain… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Lavasier Tuinei had been Oregon's Mr. Anonymous on a team with several more highly publicized players, but that changed in the Ducks' 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

Tuinei established career highs with eight catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns and was chosen offensive player of the game.

"I really don't care about the fame, having all eyes on me and all that," Tuinei said. "I just go out there and help the team win."

To underscore that point, Tuinei said his favorite play in the game was a block he threw downfield to help spring De'Anthony Thomas on a 64-yard touchdown run.

"That's L.T.," quarterback Darron Thomas said. "He's a whole different kind of guy. If he's not getting the ball, he's downfield muscling guys."

In addition to touchdown catches of three and 11 yards, Tuinei was the centerpiece of a 5-minute 54-second drive that ended in a field goal that gave the Ducks a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter. He had a 41-yard reception to start that march, and on a fourth and sixth at the Wisconsin 30 he snagged a pass for an eight-yard gain that kept the drive going.

It's about time

Wisconsin could have used a timeout as the final two seconds ticked off the clock at the end of the game, and the Badgers might have had one had they not been charged a timeout by officials when they contested a call early in the third quarter.

Wisconsin had just trimmed Oregon's lead to 35-31 with a 29-yard field goal by Philip Welch, who then sent the kickoff about four yards deep into the Oregon end zone.

Thomas caught the ball cleanly and started forward, but stopped with his foot right on the goal line and then stepped back into the end zone for a touchback.

As Oregon hustled to the line of scrimmage to run a play, Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema was asking the sideline official for a ruling on whether the ball had crossed the goal line. According to Bielema, the official didn't understand the question and charged him a timeout.

The official ruling was that even though Thomas stepped on the goal line, the ball never came out of the end zone, so Oregon took over at its 20.

Getting offensive

The 83 points was a Rose Bowl record, surpassing the 80 points scored in 1991 when Washington defeated Iowa, 46-34.

The combined 28 points in the first quarter and 56 points at the half were also game records, and Oregon and Wisconsin also combined for 1,129 yards, one yard shy of the Rose Bowl record set by Texas and USC in 2006.

Having a Ball

Montee Ball scored on a three-yard run early in the second quarter, putting him into the NCAA record book alongside Barry Sanders with his 39th touchdown of the season.

Sanders established the record in 1988, his Heisman Trophy-winning season. However, in those days the NCAA didn't count statistics from bowl games as part of single-season totals. Therefore, Sanders' five touchdowns for Oklahoma State in a bowl game win over Wyoming didn't count.

The NCAA has counted bowl performances in single-season record totals since 2002, but the organization has said it lacks the resources to go back and update records from previous seasons.

Ball had 164 yards in 32 carries against Oregon, his 10th 100-yard game this season, and also had four catches for 51 yards.

Ratings game

Russell Wilson couldn't beat out Baylor's Robert Griffin for the Heisman Trophy or for All-American. But his performance in the Rose Bowl allowed him to beat Griffin into the NCAA record book.

Wilson completed 19 of 25 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns with one interception to finish the season with an NCAA-record quarterback rating of 191.78, just ahead of Griffin's 189.5.

Colt Brennan held the record until this season. He had a rating of 186.0 for Hawaii in 2006.

Wilson, a senior, became Wisconsin's first 3,000-yard quarterback. He completed 225 of 309 passes for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns with four interceptions this season. He finished having thrown a touchdown pass in an NCAA-record 38 consecutive games.

Quick hits

Oregon free safety John Boyett tied a Rose Bowl record with 17 tackles, 13 solo. ... LaMichael James moved into 13th place on the NCAA career rushing list with 5,082 yards. He ran for 159 yards in 25 carries and Thomas ran for 155 yards in two carries, becoming the sixth duo to each rush for 100 yards or more in a Rose Bowl game. ... Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis accounted for a Wisconsin bowl record 346 all-purpose yards — 119 receiving, 26 on two punt returns and 201 on eight kickoff returns. Thomas had an Oregon-record 314 all-purpose yards — 155 rushing, 34 receiving and 125 on five kickoff returns.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

chris.foster@latimes.com

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